Slaithwaite is to host a major musical festival in May to give people an intriguing insight into classical music.

The &Piano Music Festival gives people the chance to discover live classical music at venues in Slaithwaite and one of the stars will be Olivier-award nominated actress Emma Williams from Calderdale who has starred in major West End musicals for the last 20 years.

The festival will run from May 6 to 21 as part of the Kirklees Year of Music 2023.

The first festival in 2018 began with three events and this year expands to nine featuring more than 16 professional musicians who all have a connection to the north of England.

The festival’s artistic director Chris Pulleyn said: “Kirklees and Calderdale have a really rich heritage of music making and appreciation and &Piano is our way of helping to support that tradition into the future, celebrating all the amazing musicians that are based in and work around the region and encouraging more and more people to come and experience the joy of coming together as a community to experience beautiful, powerful, emotional music.

“We’re not a traditional classical music festival. We want people to listen and enjoy but we also chat and have a laugh during our concerts and explain and introduce the music as we go. What’s more important to us is helping our audiences connect with the music and our performers.”



On Saturday, May 6, classical music is taken outside its traditional concert space with an eclectic programme of music for saxophone and voice at the home of award-winning coffee roasters Dark Woods Coffee off West Slaithwaite Road between Slaithwaite and Marsden.

The following week, on Sunday, May 14, four-time Olivier-award nominated actress Emma Williams, originally from Bradshaw, Halifax, will perform a solo show of musical theatre hits from past and present.

Emma has enjoyed a hugely successful career so far, performing in West End shows including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, starring alongside Michael Ball, Mrs Henderson Presents, and Half a Sixpence.

Emma said: “My last solo concert here in Yorkshire was over 20 years ago before I became a professional so I’m excited to not only see so many familiar faces in friends and family, but to be able to share a few stories from two decades as a leading lady in the West End.

“The support of my home community has always been paramount from learning my craft to giving me the confidence to pursue it as a career. Now it’s time to bring it all back home and say a little thank you on the way.”

A new event for &Piano 2023 is the Performance Pub which invites musicians of any age, experience and background to perform as part of the festival in a special event on Thursday, May 18 at the Lawrence Batley Theatre.

Chris said: “Celebrating musical excellence is really important to the festival and showcasing some of the top musicians working around the north of England, but we also want to provide a platform to celebrate the importance of non-professional musicians in our community who spend hours learning and practising their instrument. It can be rare to have the opportunity to perform to an audience as a soloist.”



The final weekend kicks off on Friday, May 19 with Leeds-based Piano Quintet Avenue Ensemble – formed with musicians from the Orchestra of Opera North – to perform Schubert’s Trout Quintet alongside arrangements of iconic music from TV and film including Star Wars and Game of Thrones. 

On the evening of Saturday, May 20, a programme of song featuring three Manchester-based musicians – soprano Hayley Swanton, baritone Sam Jackson and pianist Jonathan Fisher – will present an evening of powerful American song, including hits from legendary Broadway composers Rodgers and Hammerstein, Jerome Kern and Leonard Bernstein.

The final day, Sunday, May 21, begins with the Young Musician Showcase which features young talented musicians from around Kirklees and Calderdale.

Chris said: “This is another way that the festival helps nurture music-making in the region. It’s an excellent opportunity to see the top musicians of tomorrow with many of our previous Young Musician Showcase performers having gone on to study at the top music colleges around the UK and Ireland.” 

The evening ends with a special interview featuring pianist Keith Swallow who has enjoyed an amazing career playing for some of the biggest names in the classical music world including Kiri Te Kanawa and Leontyne Price.

&Piano is supported by Arts Council England, the Liz & Terry Bramall Foundation, One Community Trust, and One17 Design Trust.

For more information and to buy tickets go to

  • Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.